All today’s news relates to the corona pandemic.

Brexit

Remainers are still trying to postpone Brexit ‘because of corona’, says the Express.

LABOUR leader hopeful Lisa Nandy has said that Boris Johnson’s Government should extend the Brexit transition period because of the coronavirus.
The MP for Wigan wrote in The Guardian that the coronavirus is a threat to the global economy and that the UK should “agree” with the EU and extend the Brexit transition period.  Ms Nandy is currently in the Labour leadership race along with Sir Keir Starmer and Rebecca Long-Bailey.
She said that the Government must take a “long-term approach” to the coronavirus crisis and think about the future.
The Labour leader underdog said that in this case “uncertainty must be minimised”, citing the financial crisis of 2008 as a vital lesson we must learn from.
She said: “So first, we must agree with the EU to extend the Brexit transition period.
“British companies who trade with the EU do not know what terms they’ll be trading on in 10 months’ time.

Parliament

The Prime Minister may not have an easy ride over emergency laws, reports the Times.

Boris Johnson will face a rebellion next week over his plan to impose draconian emergency laws to tackle coronavirus that could be in place for more than two years.
David Davis, the former Brexit secretary, is planning to table an amendment calling for the legislation to expire after a year. He said that the powers are so extensive that they need an “absolute, brick-wall stop”.
The government had hoped to find cross-party consensus so that the legislation could pass through the Commons on Monday and Tuesday without a formal vote.

EU

In an exclusive story, the Sun reports that the French are trying to steal our medical supplies.

THE French sparked a near-diplomatic row by seizing two lorries carrying 130,000 face masks for the NHS.
The cargo was being urgently ferried in a major boost for over-stretched UK medics battling coronavirus.
But French border guards impounded the trucks after realising what was on board.
They were acting on President Emmanuel Macron’s pledge to “requisition” all masks for his country’s fight.
The seizure came just 24 hours after another British-bound vehicle carrying thousands of bottles of hand sanitiser was also held up on the other side of the Channel.
UK officials were quickly alerted to both incidents.
And after tense, top-level talks, the lorries were allowed to leave with all supplies on board.

Workers

Bars, restaurants, gyms and other mass-gathering places are now shut down, says the Telegraph.

Boris Johnson promised to underwrite the entire nation’s wage bill as he ordered a total shutdown of pubs, restaurants and leisure facilities to save “thousands” of lives.
Anyone who cannot work because of the coronavirus pandemic will be paid 80 per cent of their salary by the Government, capped at £2,500 per month, under an unlimited rescue package “unprecedented in the history of the British state”.
Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor, said the country had reached “a generation-defining moment” as he told businesses he would pick up the bill for anyone “furloughed” by the crisis to remove the need for companies to lay people off.

And the chancellor has said the government will pay wages, reports the Morning Star.

CHANCELLOR Rishi Sunak unveiled an unprecedented emergency package on workers’ jobs and wages today during the coronavirus outbreak following talks with trade unions.
At the daily Covid-19 press conference in Downing Street hosted by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Mr Sunak said that the government will pick up “most of” the wages of workers who would otherwise face losing their jobs.
But the announcement focused mainly on PAYE employees, with critics demanding more protections for freelancers, the self-employed and precarious workers.

The economy

The chancellor has announced lots of economic support, reports the Telegraph.

Rishi Sunak may have saved a million jobs with an unprecedented package of economic support for firms teetering on the brink of collapse due to the coronavirus crisis, business leaders said.
The Chancellor pledged to cover 80pc of the wage bill for every worker unable to do their job while Britain is on lockdown during the pandemic – allowing hundreds of companies to avoid mass redundancies. The maximum payment per employee will be £2,500 a month.
“There is no limit on the amount of funding available for the scheme – we will pay grants to support as many jobs as necessary,” he said.
It comes alongside a £30bn pledge to postpone all VAT payments for three months to ease the pressure on cash flow, and increases in universal credit and working tax credit.

It will cost millions of pounds, says the Mail.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s employment support package will cost the taxpayer billions of pounds a month, the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) said tonight.
IFS director Paul Johnson said the final cost to the Exchequer of paying up to 80% of the wages of workers whose jobs were under threat from the coronavirus outbreak was ‘unknowable’.
He said that if the support was claimed for 10% of employees it could cost the Government £10 billion over three months.

But still workers could lose their jobs, reports the Times.

Millions of workers facing layoffs will have their wages paid by the government for at least three months in the latest multibillion-pound injection to stop the economy from collapsing.
Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, told companies that the state would pay 80 per cent of wages up to £2,500 a month for workers who would otherwise have been made redundant.
Mr Sunak said that the measure, a key plank in the latest rescue that will cost the Treasury billions a month, meant that Britain’s economic response was “one of the most comprehensive in the world”.

The Mail calls the chancellor’s plans a ‘blank cheque’.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak effectively signed a blank cheque tonight as he unveiled a huge new coronavirus bailout to cover the wages of millions of people and stop firms going bankrupt.
He said the government will cover 80 per cent of salaries up to a ceiling £2,500 a month – equivalent to the UK average wage of £30,000 a year – as long as employers keep workers on their books, and there will be no limit on the total cost. The scheme will be up and running by the end of April and be backdated.

And the self-employed can also get pay from the treasury, says the Telegraph.

Freelancers and the self-employed have just been granted equal sick pay rights in a huge package announced by the Government to support workers through the coronavirus crisis.
Workers without the safety net of an employer will be receive benefits worth the same amount as statutory sick pay (£94.25 a week) should they contract the virus. Chancellor Rishi Sunak also announced they could defer payments for their self-assessment tax return until January 2021.
However freelancers have said the amount will still not be enough to live off. How much will they get?
Previously, the self-employed taking time off for illness were only entitled to the standard rate of employment and support allowance (ESA) and/or Universal Credit.

The police have been given powers of enforcement, reports the Times.

Police officers were mobilised last night to enforce the shutdown of bars, pubs, restaurants and gyms for public safety.
Chief constables in every force in the country engaged civil contingencies designed to respond to events such as rioting and terrorism, allowing longer shifts and making more officers available. Scotland Yard warned staff that every available officer would be working 12-hour shifts and that they would be expected to use licensing laws to enforce the closure of venues that refused to comply with the shutdown.

We could be in lockdown for several months, reports the Mail.

Social distancing will need to be in place for most of the year to prevent the coronavirus pandemic overwhelming hospitals, the Government’s top scientists warned.
The more strict policies such as school closures, working from home and avoiding family and friends will have to be enforced for ‘at least half the year’, they predict.

Sky News also reports the restrictions.

Social distancing restrictions need to be in place for “at least most of a year” to control the spread of coronavirus, according to experts advising the government about the pandemic.
Evidence from the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE), which is advising ministers on the UK’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, has been published by the government.
It comes after Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Thursday that the UK could “turn the tide” against COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, in 12 weeks.

The Telegraph describes the prospect of fighting the virus as ‘grim’.

The scientific advice on which the Government has based its coronavirus strategy has been released, giving a grim insight into the expected progression of the virus and calling into question some of the strategies.
Documents studied by the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) showed that social-distancing “lockdown” measures to keep people apart may need to be in place for most of the year to control the spread, and millions may already be infected, according to worst-case modelling.
The Government published the advice after Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister, said he expects the tide to be turned in the fight against Covid-19 within 12 weeks. Yet modelling shows the crisis could last far longer, with the virus potentially returning next winter (see interview with Sir Patrick Vallance, Chief Scientific Adviser, below).

ITV News reports the situation in Europe.

Southern Europe is buckling under the strain of the coronavirus pandemic, with patients filling the wards of hospitals in Spain and Italy as the global death toll passed 10,000 people.
The World Health Organisation noted the dramatic speed of the virus’s spread, saying: “It took over three months to reach the first 10,000 confirmed cases, and only 12 days to reach the next 100,000.”
The WHO released new protocols to help countries identify the extent of Covid-19 infection among their populations, which age groups are most affected and the percentage of people who are infected without symptoms.
Italy recorded its highest day-to-day rise in the number of deaths on Friday, at 627, and in Bergamo, the epicentre in Italy, cemeteries were overwhelmed.

And Yahoo News says it could be even worse here.

The UK’s coronavirus outbreak could be worse than Italy’s and hospitals may be “completely swamped”, an A&E consultant has told Sky News.
The Italian system is “in advance of us in terms of resources and the intensive care beds”, he said, and it could be days until some hospitals reach capacity and patients begin spilling out into corridors.
The medic, who works on the front line at a south London hospital and wanted to stay anonymous, said COVID-19 had been “described as the flu” but “really isn’t – not the way we are seeing it”.
He said people were coming in with “full-blown, really nasty pneumonia”.
The only way to get control of the outbreak is through a “fairly strict lockdown”, he said, warning that “somebody you know” is likely to be affected.

The Telegraph reports from a London hospital.

A major London hospital became the first in the country to be overwhelmed by coronavirus as exhausted nurses revealed they were wearing bin bags to protect themselves.
In a message to staff, Northwick Park Hospital in Harrow said it had no critical care beds left after a sudden surge in patients infected with Covid-19.
Six people have died at the hospital so far with dozens of others struggling to breathe in intensive care.
As pressure grows on hospitals across the UK, one senior health chief suggested an age threshold of 60 might be placed on admissions in order to relieve pressure on beds.

And the very ill or old may not be treated, reports the Independent.

Overwhelmed doctors will be given new guidelines to help them decide which coronavirus victims should potentially live or die if they run out of intensive care beds or ventilators.
The criteria – expected to be issued on Saturday – are a recognition that hospitals are likely to be faced with terrible choices in the weeks to come and cannot be expected to make them alone.
They will cover patients with conditions including respiratory disease, cancerheart disease and diabetes, although it is unclear whether they will also set an age limit above which treatment could be withdrawn.

Treatment

Air-tight helmets are being used in Italy, reports the Mail.

Italian doctors fighting on the coronavirus frontline are using ‘bubble helmets’ to treat critically-ill patients in need of breathing assistance.
The gadgets – a transparent, air-tight helmet – have been shown to help critically ill patients breathe easier and improve their chances of survival.
A ventilator is a machine that supports breathing by getting oxygen into the lungs and removing carbon dioxide from the body.

And here in the UK a vaccine is being tested, says the Times.

A British vaccine is set to undergo human and animal trials simultaneously, beginning next week at Porton Down, as scientists attempt to have it ready for limited use before next winter.
The drug, made by a team at Oxford University, is expected to begin testing on animals at the scientific base in Wiltshire, and then human safety trials next month, before the results of the animal trials are known. If the safety trials are successful, it will enter larger scale human trials, known as phase II trials.

Is the government ready to accept help with testing?  The Mail reports:

The British firm behind a cheap DIY coronavirus test which is ‘almost 100 per cent accurate’ claims its offer to mass produce them for the NHS has fallen on deaf ears.
Boris Johnson promised to buy hundreds of thousands of ‘antibody tests’ which can tell if a person is currently suffering from coronavirus or has ever had it in the past.
The Government has warned it could take weeks or months to roll them out because current ones on the market are not reliable enough, it claims.

Fraud

Unfortunately, some crooks are taking advantage of the pandemic, says Yahoo News.

Coronavirus scams have caused losses of almost £1m as fraudsters use the global pandemic to target members of the public.
The National Fraud Intelligence Bureau said reports related to the outbreak have rocketed 400 per cent in recent weeks.
The 105 cases recorded in little over a month have caused losses totalling £970,000.
Officials said the first coronavirus-related scam was reported on 9 February and there were 20 more reports that month.
But in the first two weeks of March the number rose to 46, and there were 38 more between 14 and 18 March alone.

Vulnerable

On Monday, millions of us will be told to isolate ourselves, says the Mail.

Around 1.4 million vulnerable people in Britain will be told to self-isolate on Monday during the coronavirus outbreak, as the UK death toll hits 144.
Speaking today, Health Secretary Matt Hancock revealed that Brits classed as vulnerable will be sent a letter by the NHS and told what specific actions they need to take to protect themselves from the killer virus.
The 1.4 million people include anyone with an underlying health condition such as those who usually receive an NHS flu jab and those with weakened immune systems.
Anyone over 70 is also urged to be ‘particularly stringent in following social distancing measures’.

Education

Provision is being made for students, says the Telegraph.

GCSE and A-level students are to be given the option of taking an “appeal exam” in the next academic year, as the Government confirmed that results will be given based on predicted grades.
Students will be given their grades by the end of July, which will be based on a combination of their mock exam results, “non-exam assessment” and other data.
Any students who are not happy with this grade will be able to appeal against it, and will have the opportunity to sit an exam “at the earliest reasonable opportunity” once schools open again.
Exam boards will give students their grades after receiving information from teachers and other data such as the pupil’s prior attainment. Teachers will “submit their judgment about the grade that they believe the student would have received if exams had gone ahead” to the relevant exam board.

Teachers will do the work this year, reports the Times.

Teachers will grade their own pupils for A level and GCSE this year, the government has said.
Exam boards will combine teachers’ judgments with other data to calculate a final grade, with results ready before the end of July.
However, pupils will be able to take exams in September, or as soon as schools reopen, if they are unhappy with the results. They may also resit them in summer next year.
The system of “moderated assessment” was set out by the exam regulator Ofqual yesterday, two days after this year’s GCSE and A level exams were cancelled. Schools shut to most pupils yesterday afternoon.

The Mail also reports the reassurance for students.

Pupils have been reassured that the GCSE and A Levels they get this year will be ‘indistinguishable’ from previous ones.
Thousands of 16 and 18-year-olds left in limbo by the lockdown in schools were given clearer guidance yesterday about the marks process with results due before the end of July.
Teachers will award grades for subjects according to what they ‘believe the student would have received if exams had gone ahead’, the Department for Education said.

Waste collections

But councils are cancelling your bin collections, reports the Star.

Multiple bin collections have been cancelled across the UK as Brit families are told – take your own trash to the tip.
The coronavirus crisis has forced councils to dramatically scale back everyday services and household bin collections are one of the first to go.
And while some lorries may still be turning up to collect your bags and people are being urged to contact their local council, the new message amid the outbreak is clear: don’t let the litter pile up, put it in your car and take it to your local dump yourself.
One of the councils taking the extraordinary step includes Cambridge City Council, who said it would suspend all garden waste collections from Monday until May 4.

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